FORMER Trinamool minister Partha Chatterjee, who is under arrest in connection with the probe into the teacher recruitment scam, allegedly used “proceeds of the crime” to set up “bogus companies” with “dummy directors”including a person who ran errands for his aide and co-accused Arpita Mukherjee, the Enforcement Directorate has told a special court in Kolkata.
In a chargesheet filed on September 20, the ED said Arpita allegedly implicated Chatterjee and made an application for leniency in view of her disclosure against the former Industries and Education Minister in the Mamata Banerjee government.
Chatterjee and Arpita, arrested in July, are in judicial custody.
Besides Chatterjee and Arpita, the ED named six companies “through their directors” as accused and estimated the total value of immovable and movable properties at Rs 48.22 crore. This, the agency said, was apart from the Rs 49.80 crore in cash and jewellery of more than Rs 5 crore seized from two flats owned by Arpita in Kolkata.
On Chatterjee’s role, the ED said he floated at least six dummy companies and installed dummy directors “with the sole aim of laundering the tainted funds”.
“Underprivileged people having meagre means of living were exploited and made directors by Shri Partha Chatterjee and thereafter made to sign on the papers of the company without their consent or knowledge and even without showing them any contents of the documents,” the ED said, adding that he “used his influence and power to subdue people by directing them to arrange for dummy directors and proxies for companies/firms controlled by him”.
According to the probe agency, Arpita’s errand boy was one of the alleged dummy directors of M/s Sentry Engineering Pvt Ltd, a “dummy company… controlled by Shri Partha Chatterjee through Ms Arpita Mukherjee”.
“…the second director of this company Shri Kalyan Dhar is a person of meagre means and was employed by Ms Arpita Mukherjee at a salary of Rs 18,000 per month for doing errand jobs for her. Shri Kalyan Dhar in his statement deposed that he does not have any idea about any of the companies in which he was made a director and he merely used to sign on the documents as per the directions of Ms. Arpita Mukherjee,” the ED said.
Underling that Chatterjee’s “de-facto control” of the companies is evident from the statement of Arpita and the other co-accused, the ED said he allegedly deposited the proceeds from the scam in the accounts of the dummy companies and subsequently purchased immovable properties in the name of these companies.
Calling Chatterjee’s co-accused Arpita his “close associate in laundering the funds generated through the criminal activities”, the ED said, “Investigation … has revealed that the cash seized from the premises of Ms Arpita Mukherjee belongs to Shri Partha Chatterjee, as has been categorically accepted by Ms Arpita Mukherjee in her statement dated 04.08.2022. She even made an application before the Investigating Officer for a true disclosure in this regard.”
Alleging that Chatterjee and Arpita jointly purchased properties and set up M/s APA Utilities Services, a “partnership firm” incorporated in 2011, the ED said, “Investigation… (has) revealed that he acquired huge cash through criminal activities and concealed it in the premises in the name of Ms Arpita Mukherjee out of which Rs 49.8 crore was subsequently… seized from the two premises situated at Club Town Heights, Kolkata, and Diamond City South, Kolkata.”
Accusing Chatterjee and the other co-accused of laundering money, the agency said that they are “liable to be punished under Section 4 of the PMLA”.
On the “close association” of Chatterjee and Arpita, the ED pointed to 31 LIC insurance policies in her name — “opened in March 2012” — in which Chatterjee is the nominee.
“Properties were also purchased in the joint name of Shri Partha Chatterjee and Ms Arpita Mukherjee and in the name of M/s APA Utilities Services, which was a partnership firm of Shri Partha Chatterjee and Ms Arpita Mukherjee incorporated on 01.11.2011,” the ED said.
Saying Arpita, in her statement to the ED on August 4, had “accepted that the huge cash hidden at her home belongs to Shri Partha Chatterjee… and so he could only explain”, the agency said she was allegedly involved “in the acquisition, use, possession, and concealment of proceeds of crime with the assistance of other accused persons and entities.”
The ED said Arpita wanted to make a formal application on Chatterjee’s role in the alleged scam. “In this regard she has made an application for treating this disclosure as an application for taking a lenient view under the provisions of law,” it said.
The agency also detailed the process of how money changed hands as prospective candidates, in the hope of jobs, paid Rs 7-7.5 lakh each to middlemen.